Bishops surprised by Rudd-O’Neill refugee agreement

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea says it is surprised by and disappointed at the agreement reached by Peter O’Neill and Kevin Rudd that all asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat will be processed on Manus Island and that those deemed to be genuine refugees will be resettled in Papua New Guinea.

While they are finding it difficult to comment on all the social and moral implications until more facts become available they say, “we can certainly say this, that while Papua New Guineans are not lacking in compassion for those in need, this country (unlike Australia which is a stable and thriving nation of immigrants) does not have the capacity at this time in its history to welcome a sizeable influx of refugees and provide for their immediate needs and a reasonable hope for a new and prosperous beginning. The leaders of Papua New Guinea and Australia surely know this and therefore appear to be making a very unwise decision.”

“Papua New Guinea is rightly proud of the protection guaranteed by its Constitution to all people, citizen and non-citizen alike. We refer particularly to the section on freedom and liberty of the person (section 42) in the PNG Constitution. So is it right to bring people across our borders against their wishes? Is it right to imprison people who have not broken our laws? The implication that resettlement in PNG would be a deterrent is offensive to Papua New Guinea.”



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